Visiting both Greece and Turkey is one of the most common ways to enjoy a sea-side vacation in the area. Many travelers choose to visit Athens , take a short trip to one of the Cycladic Islands, followed by visiting the Turkish Riviera.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, the cheapest option is to take the bus. If you lack time but your budget is enough for a plane ride, you can get from Athens to Istanbul in about 1 h 20 min.
Flights from Athens to Istanbul
Both cities are served by international airports. There are direct flights offered by Olympic Airlines and Turkish Airlines (2 flights per day each). The flight time is about 1h 20 min.
Non stop flights start at €102 on Olympic Air , should you decide to fly in 2012 (including during the high season). Return flights start at €168 on the same carrier.
>>Here you can book Olympic Airlines flights
Ferries from Athens to Istanbul
The Turkish ports have direct connections only with several Cycladic Islands (Chios, Kos, Lesvos or Rhodes) so if you need to travel by ferry from Athens (Piraues) to Istanbul, the first step is to get to one of those islands.
The following ferry connections are available between Greek islands and Turkey:
Chios (Greece) to Cesme (Turkey)
- time: 1 h
- price: €25, one way, adult
Kos (Greece) to Bodrum (Turkey):
- time: 20 min (high speed) or 1 h (regular)
- price: €30, one way, adult (regular)
Lesvos (Greece) to Ayvalik (Turkey)
- almost daily
- time: 1h 30 min (regular)
- price: €40, one way, adult
>>more information on Ferries from Thessaloniki to Lesvos
Rhodes (Greece) to Marmaris (Turkey)
- time: 1h (high speed)
- price: €50, one way, adult
>>more information on Ferries from Rhodes to Kos (and return)
Rhodes (Greece) to Fethiye (Turkey)
- May & June: 3 times per week
- July & August: daily
- time: 1 h 30 min (high speed)
- price: €58, one way, adult
Rhodes (Greece) to Bodrum (Turkey)
- Monday & Friday
- time: 2 h 15 min (high speed)
- price: €60, one way, adult
Once you arrive in one of the Turkish ports, you need to get to Istanbul. Here are the options:
- from Cesme: by bus (8 hours)
- from Bodrum: by bus (13 hours) or by plane (1h 10 min)
- from Ayvalik: by car or by ferry to Bandirma and then by car
- from Marmaris: by plane from Dalaman (1h 20 min)
- from Fethiye: by bus or plane via Bodrum or Marmaris
Just to give you an idea about the total price and time involved, we’ll assume the following route (in June):
Athens to Rhodes by ferry
- departure: Thu, 7 p.m.
- arrival: Fri, 7:04 a.m.
- price: €53 , economy class
>>more information on Ferries from Athens to Rhodes
Rhodes to Bodrum by ferry
- departure: Fri, 4:30 p.m.
- arrival: Fri, 6:45 p.m.
- price: €60
Bodrum to Istanbul by plane
- departure: 9:35 p.m.
- arrival: 10:45 p.m.
- price: €232 , economy class (Turkish Airlines)
Total cost: €345 per person, one way
Total travel time: 15 h 30 min
Trains from Athens to Istanbul
Unfortunately, the Istanbul to Thessaloniki sleeper has been suspended due to the economic crisis in Greece. As of February 2011, there isn’t any international train connecting Greece to the rest of Europe.
In order to get from Athens to Istanbul by train, first you need to get to Thessaloniki. There are several trains per day connecting the two Greek cities and they take between 5h 30 min (intercity) and 5 h 30 min (regular).
>>more information on Getting from Athens to Thessaloniki
Once in Thessaloniki, you can catch the train to Istanbul which leaves two times per day (7:18 a.m. and 7:37 p.m.). The journey takes about 14 hours.
The total ticket price (Athens to Istanbul) is €54 per person, one way, 2nd class.
Buses from Athens to Istanbul
Buses remain the only by land direct option between Athens and Istanbul. The Turkish Company Metro Turizm is one of the companies operating on this route. They run a bus per day, which departs Istanbul at 6 p.m. and gets to Athens 16 hours later. The single fare is either €59 or €64.
Driving from Athens to Istanbul
You can rent a car in Greece and plan to drive to Istanbul. However, make sure to ask if you are allowed to take the car across the border. The shortest route involves two ferry crossing and a total travel time of 13 h 15 min . However, if you plan to avoid paying the ferry ticket for your car , you can choose the 1091 km route via E75 and A2/E90. The total travel time is 12 h, so make sure plan some stops along the way (in Thessaloniki , for example).
Other related information:
>>Ferries from Athens: How to deal with the Port of Piraeus
>>Getting from Athens to Piraeus
>>Getting from Athens to Meteora
>>Getting from Athens to Santorini
>>Getting to Halkidiki
>>Getting from Athens to Corfu
>>Getting from Thessaloniki to Meteora
>>Getting from Hydra to Santorini (and return)
>>Getting from Thessaloniki to Kavala
Note: this article was first published on May 13th, 2009 and the information has been updated as of January 2012